Humans are naturally competitive animals. We constantly fight over all sorts of things. The subjects of our competition may have evolved over time, but it hasn’t made our battles any less vicious. Winning and the concept of beating the competition are ingrained in our society and our media. We’re told to look at those who come up a bit short as losers, even when the truth is that we all lose sometimes. Losing, in fact, is often the best thing for us.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard before going on to found Microsoft. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking originality and good ideas. Before starring in I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball was widely considered to be a B actress at best, lacking any real talent. Even one of the world’s greatest athletes, Michael Jordan, was famously cut from his high school basketball team. Would these people have gone to achieve great things without first failing? Possibly, but remembering that even the best among us don’t always have success is a great lesson.
Board games give us an outlet for competition that doesn’t have to end in total destruction (at least not in the real world). The stakes are a bit more manageable. Having said that, we, as humans, tend to attach ourselves to the idea of winning and when we don’t… well, the results can vary between a handshake and a hearty ‘Good Game!’ to the dreaded table flip, or worse.
Now, most players have experienced losing at some point in their gaming life and have developed ways to take it with a smile. One of the most important lessons that games can teach us is how to lose with grace. If we were lucky, we learned this early in our gaming lives. How we feel when we win or lose often comes down to perspective. Here are a few thoughts to consider on the subject.
Teach your kids to lose: One of the best things that board games teach us at an early age is that we’re not always going to win. This is true in games, in love, and in life. You don’t have to destroy your kids every time you play a game with them (in fact, don’t do that), but don’t let them win every competition, either. By beating them and letting them know that life goes on afterwards, you’ll be helping them to develop the skills they’ll need to survive a loss in real life. Losing is a part of life and sometimes people’s greatest achievements come after a big fall. Having the skills to pick ourselves up afterward is what defines us. By teaching your kids to lose, you’re actually giving them a skill.
Separate yourself from winning before you start: People often approach gambling with the attitude that they’re prepared to lose a certain about of money for the entertainment value they’ll get out of it. You may allow yourself, say $50, to play some blackjack one evening. If you consider that money the cost for your night’s entertainment, when and if you lose it, it will be a lot easier to walk away. You already considered that money spent. Imagine separating yourself from winning a board game in the same way. Sure, winning would be great, but the cost you’re willing to spend for a night of entertainment is the possibility of losing. It makes the experience of playing about the fun and interaction you have with others, rather than the pressure to win. This perspective will make losing a lot easier (and it won’t even cost you the $50 that blackjack would).
Learn from your loss: If you lose, it’s a perfect opportunity to question why. Was someone else more experienced? Luckier? What did you do right and where can you improve your strategy? When we win, it can be the worst thing for us. We consider the possibility that we did everything right, when in fact, chance and random circumstance could have led to our victory. We stop looking for ways to improve and that can lead to future fails. Losing reminds us that we’re flawed and can always get better. It keeps you humble and looking for ways to grow.
Most of us already know these lessons. We’ve probably had to learn them the hard way at some point, but it’s always good to remind yourself of the wonderful opportunity losing provides. It’s something that we’ll all have to face in our lives at some point. It’s how we deal with it that will set us apart.